One of a Kind Bakelite Coffin

One of a Kind Bakelite Coffin

The Out of the Ordinary department is extremely proud to offer in our upcoming sale on 7 February, a coffin made entirely of moulded brown marbled Bakelite.

16 January 2023

The coffin is among the largest ever objects produced from the material; they were a short-lived idea, which were ultimately flawed by the dense and nondegradable properties of the material, and the immense weight of such a large-scale object.

Named after its inventor, Leo Baekeland (1863-1944), Bakelite was patented in 1909, and hailed as the wonder material of the 20th century, seeing implementation from dinnerware to radios and televisions sets.

A rare full-sized Bakelite coffin

A rare full-sized Bakelite coffin (£2,000 - £4,000)

The formaldehyde resin and woodflour combination of which Bakelite is composed, however, proved to be unsuitable in the way of mortuary applications, due to its inability to decompose naturally thus preventing the body within to do so as well. The Ultralite Casket Co, who manufactured the coffins, even claimed one of its main benefits to being leakproof in their brochures. Furthermore, with the outbreak of the Second World War, cremation became an increasingly popularised method of burial, phasing out both conventional and unconventional methods of coffin-making, making it difficult for an expensive Bakelite coffin with intricate mouldings to catch on.

A rare full-sized Bakelite coffin

A rare full-sized Bakelite coffin (£2,000 - £4,000)

Time would prove to be unkind to the longevity of Bakelite production in Britain with the conception of plastics which proved much easier and cheaper to manufacture at scale. With the added benefit of being significantly lighter than its predecessor, Bakelite was soon phased out of production during the 1940s.

The coffin, designed by James Doleman, is believed to be one of only five full-sized examples ever produced by the Ultralite Casket Co. Ltd., Stalybridge, in 1938 – a testament to the great expense at which they were produced. A similar piece is in the collection of the Science Museum and another in the Bakelite Museum in Williton, Somerset, with the rest believed to be residing in private collections.

Featuring in our Life after Death section, among other excellent memento mori pieces, this is a rare opportunity to own one of the largest ever produced Bakelite objects. It would make an extraordinary centrepiece among Bakelite collectors, an excellent memento mori conversation piece, or perhaps one less thing to worry about in the future? 

For further information or details regarding viewing, please contact 


To view more lots in our upcoming 7 February Out of the Ordinary sale, click here.




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